New Delhi: National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson Rekha Sharma locked up her Twitter account from public late Tuesday after she drew the ire of social media users who dug up and shared her old controversial tweets demanding her removal from the panel.
Users posted screenshots of her tweets from years ago, when she levelled attacks on leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, and made what they called “bigoted” and “misogynist” comments.
The users also called for the removal of Sharma as the NCW chief.
What triggered this furore was a message that NCW posted on Twitter Tuesday after Sharma met Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.
“Our Chairperson @sharmarekha met with Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari, His Excellency, Governor of Maharashtra & discussed issues related to #womensafety in the state including defunct One Stop Centres, molestation & rape of women patients at #COVID centres & rise in love jihad cases,” the post read.
Our Chairperson @sharmarekha met with Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari, His Excellency, Governor of Maharashtra & discussed issues related to #womensafety in the state including defunct One Stop Centres, molestation & rape of women patients at #COVID centres & rise in love jihad cases pic.twitter.com/JBiFT477IU
— NCW (@NCWIndia) October 20, 2020
The mention of ‘love jihad’ — a term coined by Hindu fundamentalist groups to describe an alleged Muslim campaign to convert Hindu women in the name of love — by the NCW handle irked many users who castigated Sharma.
Old tweets resurface
On Tuesday, as the row over the issue intensified, Twitter users including fact-checkers, shared screenshots and archived links of Sharma’s earlier tweets.
NCW Chairperson Rekha Sharma has locked her account but don't worry here are the google sheet of her archived tweetshttps://t.co/G81IxRMwyH
— kalim (@akhmxt) October 20, 2020
In a 2012 tweet, Sharma called PM Modi “a deaf and mute person whose life revolves around mentally challenged women”.
Wait? Account was hacked in 2012? 🙈 pic.twitter.com/Vn5mxsh9Mw
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) October 20, 2020
A tweet from 2013 showed Sharma attacking Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in reply to Narendra Modi, who was then the chief minister of Gujarat. Sharma also said Sonia Gandhi should be taken to a “mental asylum” considering her “mental helth”.
In 2015, she tweeted about Zee’s Zindagi TV becoming a “Muslim channel” as the general entertainment channel was showing only “Muslim matrimonial ads”. She added, “Imagine if Hindus will stop watchingit (sic)”.
The same year, she also shared a meme on Rahul Gandhi calling him “Pappu” even as she labelled PM Modi as “India’s pride”.
Many other tweets by Sharma were also shared on the microblogging site as the NCW chief started trending. Referring to her tweets as “deeply misogynist”, “bigoted” and downright “sleazy”, some users including political leaders called for her removal from the women’s panel.
— Karuna Nundy (@karunanundy) October 20, 2020
Finally Rekha Sharma protected her twitter account. Simple reason bcs netizens had started to find out her anti-women tweets. @sharmarekha
— Suraj Kumar Bauddh (@SurajKrBauddh) October 20, 2020
Hey @sharmarekha – what on earth is a "love jehad" case? Any case in which a Muslim man and Hindu woman are in love? How dare you remain in your chair as @NCWIndia chief & use a term that a) treats women as property of communities b) hates Muslims? You bring shame to NCW. https://t.co/MYmSSTPN59
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) October 20, 2020
‘Blown out of proportion’
As Twitter users raked up her old tweets tagging Sharma, she posted a tweet alleging that her account was hacked.
“I am going to complaint to Twitter India and will reach to that person who hacked my account. Not going to leave the perpetrator (sic),” Sharma tweeted.
In another tweet, she said that someone had hacked her account and tweeted against PM Modi. “I was in flight when this happened. How mischievous people are. Coming from Maharashtra and can understand why it happened,” Sharma wrote in another tweet.
Speaking to ThePrint about her meeting with the Maharashtra governor, the NCW chief said the entire issue was being blown out of proportion, noting that she mentioned this issue of “love jihad” among many others.
“I have said I am for inter-religious marriage but I am against conversion. In fact inter-religious marriage has taken place in my extended family itself then how can I be against it? We see it has happened so many times in politics as well,” she said.
Sharma added that the main agenda of her meeting with Koshyari had been overlooked. “The main mudda was the safety of women in Covid centres and the fact that the state (Maharashtra) did not have a women’s commission, despite so many cases were pending.”
Who is Rekha Sharma?
Sharma, who is from Chandigarh, had been a member of the National Commission for Women for three years before she took over as its chief in August 2018.
Before leading the commission, she had courted a controversy over her call for abolishing “confessions” in churches saying it could lead to “blackmailing of women”. At the time, Union minister from Kerala Alphons Kannanthanam had said the Modi government had nothing to do with her stand.
At the time of her appointment, many women activists had questioned the move saying the NCW had been reduced to a “political parking lot”.
Prior to 2015, Sharma was BJP’s media-in-charge in Haryana. A 2015 report in The Times of India said Sharma had worked with Modi from 1996 to 1998, before he became the CM of Gujarat. “I learnt a lot from him. The way he moves… his way of working is very fast, he takes decisions very quickly. He walks the talk,” she had been quoted as saying.
Sharma’s profile on the NCW website, unavailable now, said she was a social activist who ran her own management centre called Chavi. She also ran an NGO called Haryana Mahila Uthan Samiti that worked on the development and empowerment of rural women in Haryana.